Monday, September 4, 2017

Looking Backwards, Shaping The Future



Jaya Setiawan Gulo is the brain behind a very interesting initiative: The School Projects. Between making his personal journey on a healing path and coming to terms with a variety of realizations, Jaya's direction in life became clear. Education was his natural calling. Here's his story in his own words.
Jaya Setiawan Gulo
My name is Jaya Setiawan Gulo. My friends used to call me Gulo. I was born in Pematang Siantar city and raised in a small village called Pematang Asilum, not far from Siantar city. When I was a kid, I never thought about the importance of education for my future just like little kids in my village never did. Playing all day long was my childhood life. My rank was always in the bottom five of the class until grade 4. One day when I was playing with my friends in my house yard, I fell down and broke my left arm. My family took me to a Dukun Patah, traditional massage therapist in a very rural village called Sei Paham in the North Sumatra province where most of our big family lived.




My name is Jaya Setiawan Gulo. My friends used to call me Gulo. I was born in Pematang Siantar city and raised in a small village called Pematang Asilum, not far from Siantar city. When I was a kid, I never thought about the importance of education for my future just like little kids in my village never did. Playing all day long was my childhood life. My rank was always in the bottom five of the class until grade 4. One day when I was playing with my friends in my house yard, I fell down and broke my left arm. My family took me to a Dukun Patah, traditional massage therapist in a very rural village called Sei Paham in the North Sumatra province where most of our big family lived.

While being healed, my mind and heart were shocked by what I daily looked at and perceived about the struggle of life in such a left-behind village as the one I stayed in. People here worked as rice farmer, coconut tree climber and distributor, and fisherman. Most of the wives worked with their husbands to support their living. The natural resources thoroughly provided for their every need, from housing to food. I found that they committed to sending their kids to school although they had to owe some money from the neighborhoods. Their parents devoted their lives to doing everything in order for their kids to finish school.

After spending over a month in the Sei Paham village, I finally came home. I kept thinking that I couldn't work as a coconut tree climber anymore. I was a tiny boy. Instead, I had a big desire to help kids out there to keep going to school and finish their studies. Since then, I earnestly promised myself to study harder to achieve my future goals and to fight for needy people particularly in education.

My studies began to show significant progress. I made it to top 5 in the final semester of grade 6. I asked myself whether I could continue my school at the Siantar city, the closest city to my home. I told my ambition to my parents. Fortunately, they supported me. Reading and practicing more for the elementary high school exam had been my top priority at home. Merely 25% out of the total applicants from outside the city district would be accepted to my favorite elementary school I applied for, SMP Negeri 1 Pematang Siantar. The result came out. I was grateful for being accepted by the school.

Fourteen years later, exactly last year, I had stable work as a Customs Officer at the Ministry of Finance. Furthermore, I received a scholarship from the US Department of State to study a Project Management certificate at Edmonds Community College under the Northwest Community College Initiative consortium. Organized by the American Indonesian Exchange Foundation (AMINEF), I gained a lot of life-changing experiences, new knowledge, and a broader network of friends. While studying for a year in the United States, I took part in various non-profit organizations that help the community to make a real difference.

"Education is not the preparation for life. Education is life itself."
                                                                               John Dewey

© Jatmiko





My social soul grew up faster. My American-Indonesian host family, Om Karl Clauset, asked me what I would do when I returned to Indonesia. I firmly said that I would like to contribute to the community by supporting the education particularly in the rural areas in Indonesia. He responded well by trying to liaise me with some non-profit organizations in the greater Seattle area to learn about their work and hopefully to make a partnership.

My idea about founding a social enterprise focusing on education was getting bolder. Soon I organized a meet-up with my South African friend, Isabeau Malan, and my consortium coordinator, Amanda Fletcher. I was impressed. They openly supported my idea and they were willing to join me as a team.

A few months later, I flew to Indonesia. With my network, I strived to recruit more people for my team. Looking for the team members was quite a challenge for me. As I work for the Kualanamu Customs Service, Ministry of Finance, I lacked time to select my team members. Also, knowing someone's passion in a social initiative and commitment to a team required a special assessment. I then posted an invitation in my social media and asked for my friends' suggestions.

A team of nine youths was gathered. We come from different walks of life. Our team members consist of an event organizer, a grant or proposal writer, a tech savvy for updating a website, a graphic designer, a video editor, and of course a social media enthusiast. We share strong passion to fight for quality education.

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success."
                                                                               Henry Ford
 
© Kaysha Riggs


The School Projects was born. It is a precious name for our youth-led organization. It aims to bring hope and make positive changes in the community's education development. Our first project is Education Cannot Wait.



© The School Projects Team
The Education Cannot Wait project is an inclusive, sustainable education initiative that combines skill, passion, and attitude by engaging students and the school neighborhood to support each other, learn together, and contribute in all aspects of the life of the school. Our programs are conducting trainings for the teachers and counseling for the students' parents, organizing activities for students such as drawing, story-telling, and so on, inviting professionals to motivate the students, distributing 1,100 school supplies, organizing trainings for the teachers and counselling for the children’s parents, and providing 5 scholarships for 5 selected students, for this year and on until the 5 scholarship recipients graduate from high school.


To further our project plan, in August 2016, my team and I went to the Mandailing Natal regency in the North Sumatra province to conduct research for our project. With the assistance of the local community, we visited four elementary schools in the Sikara-Kara village. Looking at the school infrastructure was a heartbreaking moment for us. For instance, the roof had a lot of holes. The wall was made of pallets. The floor was wet soil as it was raining the day before. The students sat in a long chair that almost broke while the teacher wrote on a blackboard that had a lot of holes in it. And there was no toilet at all.



In the 2017 State Budget, the Indonesian government allocated 20% of the total state revenue to education. Education budget allocation is the top priority in budget which is proof of the government's commitment to increase the quality of education. Amid the significant increase in the education budget, the education performance remained low. In fact, many schools in the rural areas have not fully received the soaring education budget.

Based on my interview with several teachers at the schools I visited, they had met with the Education Agency in their regency. The Education Agency told them that there has not been any funding yet to help build the school infrastructure. Although the tuition for students is free, the school facilities do not support the process of learning and education within the classrooms remains unsafe.

The education financing system in Indonesia has to be made structurally simple, transparently reported, and easily accessed. A simple financing process will cut any unnecessary fee, for example, administration fees at each level of government, transfer fees, and banking-related administration costs. To make sure that the education funding is distributed to the correct goals, the government should be responsible for publishing their financial reports. Reports will be a great source for the community and the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi-KPK (the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission) to assess if a report is correctly made and responsibly reposted.

The published report will lead to better government bureaucracy in the education sector. An accessible report in the government office, website, and other media will provide an opportunity to the community to assess the steps and development run by the government. In the next policy-making process in education, the government can involve the community to address the needs of education. Therefore, the citizen can make his voice heard for a better sustainable education advancement.

As technology rapidly moves forward in the cities in Indonesia, education in the rural areas moves backwards. The reality of education in this village awakened me to the fact that there are many schools in the rural areas that need our hands to move forward. In cities, some students have used Tablets to write and learn. Nevertheless, the students at Sikara-Kara village are still struggling to write in their used books. Their parents cannot afford their school supplies.

"One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world."
                                                                                           Malala Yousafzai

The government has to set a better strategy of education policy to organize more trainings and pedagogical approaches for teachers. Pedagogy and teacher training are crucial as what children learn and how the lesson is taught are their experiences in school. Studies have shown that teachers contribute the most to students' learning outcomes. Therefore, no matter how good a policy is, if the infrastructure and the teachers are not ready, then it becomes useless.

That’s where the Education Cannot Wait project comes in. Our team mostly works online through email and social media since we live in different cities and countries. Managing my team is a challenge. Our discussions occur online and by email with time differences, and we work to improve our decisions and communicate fluently. Furthermore, we all work and run our own businesses. The key point for our team is the commitment to make a difference in the community.

With The School Projects, we believe in the power of education. For children, education is the key to opening the door to better lives. For the community, education will lead to a better understanding of the importance of education in improving lives. With education, good teachers form the foundation of good schools, and improving teachers’ skills and knowledge is one of the most important investments of time and money that local, state, and national government can make in education.


© Jaya Setiawan Gulo
The Education Cannot Wait project will make a real impact to a wide range of beneficiaries including the students, teachers, parents, youth, community, stakeholders to the government. Our goals are to educate and enrich the students’ and parents’ understanding about the importance of education. We will facilitate the students’ commitment to complete their schooling and the parents’ support of their children to keep going to school. This project will provide an opportunity for students, the community, and governments to collaborate to foster the development of education in school and at home. As a result, everyone will be held responsible for students’ academic progress and persistence to keep going to school.


Follow Gulo on: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.


Follow The School Projects on: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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